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Freelance Nation: Why Millennials Are Mastering The Freelance Life

Millennials and freelancing

While the security of a steady gig can be attractive because you know you’ll always be able to pay your rent, the inflexibility of a full-time job can also be stifling AF. Eighteen months ago I left my corporate marketing job and jumped into the abyss of a full-time freelance career because I wanted to take control of my future. And, I’m in good company. Millennials are mastering the art of the freelance life, according to a new study from MetLife, USA TODAY reported. Thanks to the internet, making your side hustle your main hustle is more attainable than ever before. The study found that 74 percent of millennials noted they were more interested in freelance or contract work than full-time jobs, and a quarter of that number revealed they planned to leave their jobs in the next five years to freelance full time.

This may be, in part, because millennials refuse to settle for careers they don’t love and work for people who don’t give them the respect they deserve. What’s more, being chained to a 9-to-5-Monday-through-Friday schedule doesn’t allow time for much else. What’s more, raised in an era where instability is the new normal, the allure of striking out on your own doesn’t come with the risks and limitations it once did. Because, let’s face it, most of us aren’t going to be able to afford a house any time soon because we’ve spent that money on our educations. So, why not use that education to do what you love? It turns out that many millennials are doing just that, and those with the highest levels of education are leading the revolution for a variety of reasons.

You Don’t Have To Put A Price On Your Integrity


“Today, our lives reflect our preferences. We choose how our coffee is made, create personalized playlists, and decide which apps we have on our phones. In all aspects of our lives, we can make choices to meet our unique needs,” Todd Katz, executive vice president, Group Benefits, at MetLife, said in the company’s 2017 study. While you may have inherited a dumpster-fire economy from previous generations, as a millennial you also have more choices than those who came before you. Basically, you belong to the first generation that really can do whatever it wants. And, you’re also the first generation that is doing what it wants, and it has nothing to do with spending your days in a cubicle farm. A study from Princeton University found that 94 percent of job growth during 2005 and 2015 came from alternative work arrangements, aka the gig economy, with women more likely than men to pursue the freelance life.

If you’re miserable in your 9-to-5, it’s enticing to entertain the idea of being your own boss, only accepting work that you like, and working from home in your pajamas a few days a week. This notion is so attractive that a study from Upwork and the Freelancers Union predicted that by 2027 freelancers will make up the majority of the workforce. I recommend planning your escape from corporate drudgery better than I did by getting started while you still have that secure job so you don’t have to cash out your 401k (like me). That being said, being your own boss means that you don’t have to sacrifice your integrity to get a paycheck, and that my friendlies is something you can’t put a price on, and it’s also the number-one reason I decided to strike out on my own. According to the Upwork and Freelancers Union survey, the top drivers motivating people to start freelancing include the desire “to be their own boss, to choose when they work, to choose their own projects, to choose where they work, and to earn extra money.” Because, being able to enjoy and feel good about your work is not something you should have to sacrifice in order to support yourself.

You’re More Likely To Stay In Your Job If It’s Flexible


While a majority of millennials want to freelance, another study from Deloitte found that anxiety might be holding some people back from turning their dreams into their realities. This was certainly the case for me. Not knowing how I was going to pay my rent, coupled with a lack of confidence in my ability to make it on my own, kept me in a terrible job years longer than it was healthy for me to stay. Eventually, the anxiety of staying became more powerful than the anxiety of leaving, and I resigned. The availability of the Affordable Healthcare Act was a huge driver in my decision because I knew I wouldn’t have to pay eleventy-million dollars for Cobra just so I could have health insurance. The study also noted that millennials are more likely to stay in a traditional job if it offers non-traditional perks like flexible hours, unlimited vacation time, the ability to work from home a few days a week, and more.

“Compared to those in ‘low-flexibility’ environments, those employed where flexible working is highly embedded are twice as likely to say it has a positive impact on organizational performance and personal wellbeing,” Deloitte explained. “Accountability and flexibility are highly correlated; those working in the more flexible environments report higher levels of personal responsibility. For example, where flexible working is most deeply entrenched, 34 percent take ‘a great deal’ of personal accountability for their organizations’ reputations. This compares to just 12 percent within enterprises where there is low flexibility.” This evidence suggests that if companies want to retain millennial workers they’re going to have to embrace the future and stop dismissing our must-haves as a passing fad. If they don’t, many millennials have no problems peacing out to become the masters of their own destinies. Same?

Share your experiences in the comments below and let us know how you feel about the freelance life.